Family, Fun and Healthy Living, the Community Hospital Anderson Way
Family, fun, and learning about healthy living can all happen at once, and Community Hospital Anderson's (CHA) We Can!® programming has been proving that since 2008. The community site located in Indiana hosts its We Can! activities throughout the year. This site's successful recruitment and retention efforts—9 adults and 15 children participants in the spring 2012 session and 11 parents and 8 children in the fall—is due to its unique programming, incentives, and publicity efforts.
While parents learn about healthy lifestyle choices from the We Can! Parent Program—delivered by an RD on staff—their children participate in an upbeat and interactive exercise course taught by a nurse practitioner. By partnering with Kids Plus' certified nurse practitioners, CHA is able to facilitate physical activities for children while their parents are learning right next door. Kids Plus is an outgrowth of CHA, run through a doctor's office, and includes certified nurse practitioners who provide adolescent services and education programs. The most popular activity for the children is an obstacle course that includes jumping rope, hula hooping, and skipping.
To keep parents engaged with the materials, CHA routinely checked the We Can! website to download and print new tip sheets and other resources that parents can take home. Interactive lessons continue to be popular, especially with the parent participants. During the fall session, for instance, participants used real food labels to look at the amount of sugars and fat in foods, making the numbers in the Nutritional Facts labels more real to them.
For the last We Can! session, parents and children come together for a big celebration of all they learned. During this event, families participate in physical activities together and munch on healthy foods, like fresh vegetable and fruit platters.
"The exciting part of the We Can! program is that parents and caregivers are being targeted and educated. Without parent and caregiver involvement, hands on learning, and focus on the specific curriculum that the We Can! program provides, childhood obesity could not be treated," said Jenny Martin, an RD and the CHA We Can! coordinator.
When asked why participants keep coming back for more information, week after week, Martin gives a nod to incentives. If the family attends five of the six sessions, the youth are automatically entered into a drawing for prizes including family passes to local fitness clubs, an iPod Shuffle, and more (made possible by grant funding and local partner donations). Even if participants do not win one of the big prizes, all participants get a We Can! t-shirt.
We Can! materials, including cookbooks, also keep parents and youth interested and educated. Families receive the cookbook at the completion of the final Parent Program to continue healthy nutrition and recipes at home.
Getting families in the door isn't always easy, especially with busy schedules and competing priorities for parents and youth alike. Part of the hospital's marketing budget allows for local newspaper and radio advertisements. CHA places We Can! flyers in doctor's offices, a tactic that was successful as a number of participants in the fall session came from doctor's referrals. Several outpatients from the hospital also attended the program with their families, sometimes twice a year to keep the information top of mind and learn new tips. For many participants, it helps to hear the messages and tips curriculum more than once.
CHA proves to be an important part of its central Indiana community in teaching families, together, about healthy lifestyles with We Can!.
Learn how you can mirror some of their successes with these tips:
- Publicity can help get parents and youth in the door. It's not the only way to recruit participants, but can be helpful. CHA used local ads and radio spots, along with flyers and other tools. Martin also worked with We Can!'s media outreach tips to promote the We Can! program to local outlets. Refer to the "Reaching the Media: A Toolkit for We Can! Communities"We Can! Energize Our Community: Toolkit for Action (655 KB) for help creating publicity that makes sense for your organization.
- Partner with community organizations. CHA worked with other organizations in its community to help with programming and recruitment. Consider reaching out to local physicians for a We Can! sign-up list as part of a referral process. Partners—both formal and informal—can support many aspects of We Can! programming.
- Offer incentives. Incentives and free giveaways kept families coming back to the We Can! program. While offering interactive, engaging programming is the most important way to get people interested and return class after class, incentives also help. Grant funding and items donated by local organizations, individuals and the hospital made the incentives possible. Keep in mind; partnering is a great way to gather incentives for your own programming. Learn more in the We Can! Energize Our Community: Toolkit for Action (5.5 MB).